Friday, May 11, 2012

D Block: Teens In Prison

Juveniles Convicted Of Serious Offenses Go To Prison In Indiana
Re-printed from a story at WISH TV Channel 8 on May 7th 2012

Video courtesy of MSNBC series Lock Up shot in Pendleton Correctional Facility.

Last year in Marion County, in the center of the State of Indiana, 47 juveniles were waived to adult court. That's the highest number since 2008. Those convicted end up in Indiana's Youth Offender program.

The Wabash Valley Correctional Facility near Terre Haute is one of Indiana's maximum security prisons. It houses some of the state's most violent offenders - murderers, rapists, sexual predators. It also houses a select group of kids.

On any given day, around 50 kids live in Cell Block D. While they come from different backgrounds, and they committed different crimes, all were convicted in adult court.

Convicted murderer Nevin Brooks moved in at age 15.

"I got used to it fairly quick, but I am still not comfortable ... ,” he said. “Just the whole being in here - you can never trust what is actually goes on."

Always under the watchful eyes of prison staff, the young offenders spend more than 18 hours a day inside their tiny cells. Despite the close quarters the kids remain guarded. Few friendships develop in here.

"I have people I talk to, but they're not friends,” said another inmate. “You just can't have friends in this kind of place. You can't trust anybody."

Education is a key part of the daily routine. The young offenders attend language arts, math and science classes. They work toward earning a GED. Counselors also provide Alcoholics Anonymous and other substance abuse programs.

Once the kids turn 18 and complete their GED, their time with the Youth Offender program ends, and they either transfer to another prison or are integrated into the general population here.

"It is a massive change. They are in a cocoon at this point where we can protect them, we can give them programs and prepare them for what is to come," said Rich Larsen, Public Information Officer at the prison.

Inmate Jordan Brandon spent a year in the youth offender program before he was moved into the general population at Wabash Valley.

"I was a little anxious. I didn't really know what to expect going into population. I heard stories, I heard rumors," said he said.

The transition wasn't easy. Scared by the move, he felt he needed to protect himself. Prison guards later caught him with a weapon and sent him to solitary confinement for a year.

"You got guys with multiple life sentences who at any moment can take advantage of a young person. I don't think that's something to look forward to," he said.

Back inside D Block, the kid offenders aren't worried about joining the adult population once they turn 18.

"I think I'm ready. I've been over here for a while," said Brooks.

For many, the few years spent here are just a fraction of the time they will spend behind bars.

WISH TV Channel 8, An Inside Look At Teens In Prison